Skip to main content

Ms Sylvie Donna

Assistant Professor (Education)

BEd (with QTS), PG CAP, ILM Coaching and Mentoring for Colleagues, MA TEFL, MA Educational Research, Cert TEFL, Dip TEFLA, SFHEA

AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Assistant Professor (Education) in the Durham Centre for Academic Development (DCAD)  
Assistant Professor (Education) in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures  


Professional Experience

Sylvie Donna convenes and teaches various modules on the MA TESOL & MA Applied Linguistics: Fundamentals of ELT (English Language Teaching), ELT Management, Teaching Young Learners, and English for Specific Purposes. In addition, she provides staff training workshops and is Assessment Coordinator on the MA. In 2015 she won a Durham University award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

In the past, after qualifying to teach in state schools in the UK and taking further qualifications in English language teaching she worked in teaching and managerial positions in Europe (UK, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Greece), North Africa (Morocco), the Middle East (Oman), SE Asia (Singapore), South Asia (Sri Lanka) and the Far East (Japan). She mostly worked for International House and the British Council but also worked for Sumitomo Metals, a Japanese company, the International Labour Organization, which is part of the United Nations, and a few summer schools for teenagers and adults. She also taught Translation Studies modules and was an international student herself in Germany, having won a summer scholarship to study there at a young age. This experience helps her to relate to the needs of international students at Durham. 

Papers, talks and workshops Sylvie has delivered at conferences have included ones on:

  • academic or linguistic 'personalities' (‘Nurturing the opinionated Chinese persona’ at the Threshold Concepts conference in Durham, or 'Encouraging Students to Develop an Appropriate English-speaking personality' at the IATEFL BESIG conference in Munich)
  • teaching English for specific purposes (e.g. 'The skills trainers need - a business perspective' at IATEFL in the UK, the keynote talk at IATEFL in Bern, Switzerland on ‘Customer care through effective needs analysis’, and 'Preparing students for the world of work through effective placements' at the ESLTIS conference in Biel, Switzerland), and
  • critical thinking skills (e.g. 'Faciltating criticality and deep learning' at the Enhancing Teaching and Learning conference at UCL, London).

Her own publishing company (Fresh Heart) informs her understanding of how English is used in various media in the UK and USA, as well as in other English-speaking markets. Her ongoing interest in Japanese, which she used to be fluent in, and study of other languages stimulate much of her thinking on cross-cultural issues and the kinds of challenges international students might be having when studying in the UK. Of course, her wide experience of teaching and managing courses in a range of very different English language teaching contexts informs her work on the MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics.

Professional Interests

Current research interests include:

  • lecturer identity, training and ongoing development
  • the role of the academy, particularly in relation to the wider world
  • mentoring and coaching of both students and colleagues
  • supervision at MA level 
  • criticality - what it is and how it is best nurtured in students
  • technology and its changing role in teaching and learning and innovations in methodology
  • the pragmatics of effective and communication, particularly with a view to increasing harmony between different speakers and achieving better outcomes
Invited Speaker

‘Bringing the world into teaching: changing roles and modus operandi in ESP.’ English Teachers’ Association of Switzerland, Biel, Switzerland. 23 September 2017.

‘The skills trainers need: a business perspective’. IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group Pre-Conference Event, Glasgow. 3 April 2017.

Roundtable: ‘Does diversity of translation require a diversity of Translation Studies?’ Durham University. 12 February 2017.

'Integrating self-study and in-class use of the Internet with classroom teaching.' IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group Conference, Munich, Germany. 6 November 2016.

'Helping students develop an appropriate English-speaking personality.' IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group Conference, Munich, Germany. 5 November 2016.

‘Addressing our clients’ needs through effective needs analysis.’ IATEFL Business English Special Interest Group Conference, Berne, Switzerland, 16 November 2001.

‘Effective Business English Teaching’. Talks given for Cambridge University Press in Cologne, Bonn and Berlin, Germany. October 2000.

Presentations / Workshops

'Spaces, roles and modus operandi'. Durham Learning and Teaching Conference. 9 September 2019.

‘Tips for MA supervision.’ Durham Learning and Teaching Conference. 13 September 2018.

‘Making training socially acceptable: applying two Japanese concepts to the promotion and execution of support for teaching staff.’ Staff Development Forum Conference, Birmingham, UK. 30 November 2017.

‘How do you get them involved?’ Teaching and Learning Conference, Durham University. 14 September 2017.

‘How to support students taking the EPQ (Extended Project Qualification)’. Sutton Trust Summer School, Durham University. 15 August 2017.

'Preparing students for the world of work through simulated placements.' Enhancing Learning and Teaching Conference, Sheffield University. 21 July 2017.

'Integrating in-class Internet use so as to empower both teachers and students'. 3 Rivers Conference, Teeside University. 17 March 2017.

‘Maximising student engagement on taught modules.’ Staff development workshop, Durham University. 8 March 2017.

'Effective MA supervision.' Staff development workshop, Durham University. 1 March 2017.

'The scale and scope of English language teaching.' Saturday cross-disciplinary colloquium on 'scope'. Hatfield College, Durham University. 25 February 2017.

‘What kind of person do you want to appear to be when you speak English or a foreign language?’ Demo seminar at Dyke House School, Hartlepool, UK. 17 November 2016.

‘What kind of language should people speak or learn?’ Demo lecture at Dyke House School, Hartlepool, UK. 10 November 2016.

‘Facilitating criticality and deep learning.’ Enhancing Student Learning Through Innovative Scholarship conference, London. 28 June 2016.

‘Teaching for enhanced student English-speaker identity development.’ IATEFL Conference, Liverpool. 16 April 2016.

‘Effective MA supervision.’ Staff development workshop, Durham University. 9 March 2016.

‘Planning and delivering lectures - conundrums and keys to success.’ Staff development workshop, Durham University Business School. 13 May 2015.

‘Effective MA supervision.’ Staff development workshop, Durham University. 11 March 2015.

‘Nurturing the opinionated Chinese persona.’ Threshold Concepts Conference, Durham University. 10 July 2014.

‘Effective dissertation supervision.’ IATEFL Conference, Liverpool. 10 April 2013.

‘Supporting students effectively in the development of critical thinking and writing.’ BALEAP PIM Conference, Durham University. 9 June 2012.

‘Which variety of English should we teach and/or learn?’ IATEFL Conference, Glasgow. 21 March 2012.

‘Praise in the English language classroom’. IATEFL Conference, Harrogate, England. 10 April 2010 (with Nathan, P.B.).


 Author of:

  • Article in ETAS (English Teachers' Association, Switzerland): 'Being useful, authentic, and empowering'. Special Business English supplement, ETAS Journal, Winter 2018. Available at:
  • Teach Business English - Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • CD-ROMs for the English Pronuncation in Use series (Cambridge University Press)
  • Online lesson plans for Cambridge University Press
  • Three books on childbirth for Fresh Heart (for pregnant women, partners, or health providers in the case of different titles)

Pre-publication reviewer/advisor for:

  • Dictionary Activities (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Ship or Sheep (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Tree or Three (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Editor of:

  • Early Business Contacts (Prentice Hall, 1989)
  • Greek FCE examination preparation course (1996)
  • Parts of books for Longman (2000-2002)
  • Promoting Normal Birth: Research, Reflections & Guidelines (which includes chapters by 38 academics and/or practitioners
  • All other Fresh Heart publications (in collaboration with other editors and publishing professionals)

Translator of:

  • Les Montagnes du Maroc (a book about mountains in Morocco)
  • Casablanca (a book about the architecture of Casablanca)
  • Paris (a coffee table book about Paris and its architecture)
  • Une Autre Cesarienne? Non, Merci! (a book about vaginal birth after caesarean)
  • Der Geburtsschmerz (a book explaining the physiological processes of pain in labour and birth and exploring natural methods of relief or management)
  • medical texts for patients and documentation for a medical conference


Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Linguistics & Language: Applied Linguistics; Translation Studies